Compared to Industrial Revolution

Dr. Hwang's feat puts Korea at forefront of stem
cell research

medical team led by Dr. Hwang Woo-suk has surprised the medical world with its announcement of a breakthrough in stem cell research. World media and academic communities paid great attention to the announcement that they have successfully created stem cells that are tailored to match the DNA of people with specific medical conditions.
The process could enable scientists to move to a step closer to replacing damaged cells with healthy cells without the threat of immune system rejections. "Delicate Korean people who use iron chop sticks put Korea at the forefront of the research on stem cell treatment,"the Financial Times reported May 20. The British newspaper said Dr. Hwang's team of scientists took a large step in the stem cell research and there is no doubt that they have made a great contribution to the world of stem cell research.
The New York Times, quoting professor Gerald Schatten, who joined Dr. Hwang in announcing the progress of stem cell research, introduced Dr. Hwang's passionate desire for research in detail. The paper said those who were skeptical about the progress on research have now become enthusiastic about the progress.
Dr. Hwang said his success in generating patient-specific stem cells is still far from being available for medical treatment. "There were about eight doors separating us from where we want to be. We have just passed door No.4,"said Hwang at a news conference after arriving from London, where the breakthrough was announced.
Hwang, 51, said the technology has a long way to go before becoming commercialized and being used in medical treatments. People with diabetes, spinal injuries, and Parkinson's disease, which attack the nervous system, would be among the expected beneficiaries of the therapeutic cloning.
In February of last year, Hwang's team became the world's first group of scientists to successfully create stem cells from a cloned human embryo. "After our breakthrough in the successful cloning of a human embryo and deriving stem cells from it, our next main focus was to explore whether the technology has the potential to be actually applied in medical treatments,"said Hwang. "The main issues were finding ways to create stem cells more efficiently and derive stem cells not only from healthy women but people of both genders, young and old, and with various medical conditions. We took a giant step forward in achieving such goals,?he said.
In their latest breakthrough, the researchers said they generated embryonic stem cells from the skin cells of 11 patients, theoretically enabling the engineered stem cells to be used in therapy without causing rejections from the body.
The 11 patients included both males and females between the ages of 2 and 56, suffering from spinal-cord injuries, diabetes and genetic immune disorders. The use of skin cells allowed the scientists to extend the technology to both genders, unlike their first artificially made stem cell last year that was created by cloning the somatic cell of one woman.
Hwang's research team also said that advanced laboratory methods allowed them to improve their efficiency at generating stem cells lines compared to last year when they first cloned the human embryo.
The 11 stem cells lines were extracted by 185 donated human eggs, making attempts with 242 eggs to generate just one cell line. Scientists believe that improved efficiency could make the idea of medical treatment using engineered stem cells more realistic. "In theory, this work could prove to be more significant than the discovery of a vaccine or antibiotic,"said Gerald Schatten of the University of Pittsburgh, who participated in the research and co-authored the paper. nw

Dr. Hwang Woo-suk

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